Self-publishing is on the rise. It is a force to be reckoned with, illustrated by the increasing presence of traditional publishers buying or creating their own self-publishing subsidiaries. More and more self-published books are finding their way onto the NYTBS list, and are sparking viral interest in readers around the globe. The reign of the gatekeepers is coming to an end.
Yet the nattering continues. Over and over you will hear that self-published books are only those that were repeatedly rejected by traditional publishers, and rightly so. Self-published books are frequently panned for having disjointed stories, typographical errors, misspelled words, horrible grammar and badly in need of editing. To this I say:
But not always. Lumping all self-published books into this category of the unpolished and unwashed is just like lumping all traditionally published books into a category of stunning success; neither is true across the board. What is true is that a traditionally published book may have more eyes proofing it, more minds evaluating it, and therefore may have a better chance of being well-written and grammatically correct.
But that does not mean self-published books will not.
Enter the IndiePENdents. This is a non-profit organization that has taken on the daunting task of evaluating self-published books for basic standards of spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting. In a recent e-mail, they encapsulated their efforts:
We began in December 2011 and a year later acquired a 401(c)3 non-profit status. In the meantime, we have been evaluating self-published books to separate the chaff from the worthy ones to recommend to the public. We work in teams of volunteer evaluation panels; our membership is free, writers don’t pay any fees, and our judgment is therefore without any bias. Those titles which meet our basic standards are given a Seal of Good Writing, and published in a catalog under the title Well Written, Well Edited, Unknown Books.
In this grass-roots way, self-published books may acquire a first step of legitimacy not normally available in the DIY universe. I applaud the IndiePENdents’ dedication to the craft and their willingness to start this conversation about standards in a free-for-all landscape. It’s a much-needed effort, and all the more validating because it comes from this non-profit, non-paid, volunteer group.
Unfortunately, the unpaid volunteer staff of the IndePENdents is no match for the cascade of self-published books that now swamp the reading world. They need our help. In a couple of weeks, they will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise a modest $1,000 in order to print and mail their catalog of Well Written, Well Edited, Unknown Books to libraries everywhere. This is a worthy effort, and if you are an indie writer or enjoy indie books, I encourage you to check out their web page and join in the Kickstarter campaign once it gets going. I will post more about it as the campaign develops.
What do you say? Want to read good books but not be confined by the “old guard” gatekeepers?